Population status

Short-tailed Albatross
(Phoebastria albatrus)

The majority of Short-tailed Albatrosses nest on a single, intermittently active, volcanic Japanese island. Short-tailed Albatross range as far north as the Bering Strait, and occasionally the Bering and Chukchi seas; and, as far south as the Baja Peninsula. The species does not breed in Canada, but are found off the coast of British Columbia as visitors. Historically, when the global population was estimated to have been in the millions (COSEWIC 2013g), the Short-tailed Albatross was likely very common on Canada’s west coast. However, after 70 years of slaughter at their colonies for the feather trade, by 1949, the species was thought to be extinct (Austin 1949, Tickell 2000).The species however persisted, apparently due to a small number of birds wandering the Pacific during the final harvests (Austin 1949, COSEWIC 2013g). Since then, the global population has rebounded to ~3,500 individuals (USFWS 2012). The total breeding population is currently estimated to be 592 pairs (ACAP 2014). Numbers have been increasing at approximately 7% per year (USFWS 2005, ACAP 2014); and it is anticipated that the species will become more common in Canadian waters as the population rebounds (Kenyon et al. 2009). Annual sightings along the United States' and British Columbian west coast are rising. Between 1960 and 1995, there were only 11 reported sightings of the species within or adjacent to Pacific Canadian waters, whereas since 1996, there have been 76 reported sightings (~ 82 individuals) within or adjacent to Canadian waters (COSEWIC 2013g, see Appendix 1; K. Morgan, Environment Canada, pers. comm.). Monitoring data are insufficient to determine any change in population status relative to about 1970 for the Short-tailed Albatrosses that travel and forage in Canadian waters. However, over the past decade, incidental sightings of Short-tailed Albatrosses off the coast of British Columbia have increased by ~6.5% per year (COSEWIC 2013g), although this figure may be partially influenced by increased search effort.